ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Considering Colorado has posted 10 consecutive losing seasons, some might consider the fact that the Buffaloes stood toe-to-tie with No. 4 Michigan a bit of a moral victory.
After a 45-28 loss to the Wolverines, however, defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt was in no mood to talk about how much improvement the Buffaloes have made as a program.
"We lost and that burns my behind," Leavitt said as he stood outside of Michigan Stadium. "I didn't come here to play close. I came here to beat Michigan. That was all my mindset and we didn't get it done, so it burns my behind. That's all there is to it."
CU came into the game as 20-point underdogs and got the upper hand early with a pair of 14-point leads. Early on, Leavitt's defense was great and the CU offense had its way with the Michigan defense.
Ultimately, the Buffs didn't finish.
The offense sputtered — especially after quarterback Sefo Liufau went out with an injury — and the defense gave up some big plays at inopportune times.
What really burned the Buffs, however, was dismal play on special teams. Leavitt has often said that special teams is the most important phase of the game.
"Critical," he said. "It's the No. 1 thing. It really hurt us today. We weren't good enough. There's a lot of defensive guys on there. We weren't good enough there, but we weren't good enough anywhere. We have to be better on defense; special teams certainly, everybody saw that; that was glaring. But also offensively. We all have to be better. Coaches have to be better.
"We didn't deserve to win that game. We messed up way too much. We had it going for a while, but it's a 60-minute ball game. At halftime I was fine. I felt like we'd come out and beat them in the second half. We didn't get it done in the second half."
Leavitt's passionate response to the outcome stems from his competitiveness and his belief that CU is now good enough to beat teams like Michigan.
"I didn't come to Colorado to play people close," he said. "I came to Colorado to help build a program and to win games like this, you know? I didn't come here to mess around. That's not part of my whole deal.
"I'm telling you, Colorado can win. There's no excuses. I'm just telling you. I don't want to hear excuses. We have to coach better. It's hard on us. Players don't go out and make mistakes because they just want to make mistakes. We have to do a better job of coaching."
Next week, the Buffs face another tough task when they visit perennial Pac-12 power Oregon, which was ranked 22nd before Saturday's loss at Nebraska.
"We have the mindset to go in and win a football game," Leavitt said.